Centre for polar ecology

Research groups

Phycology and microbiology

The phycology and microbiology groups, in co-operation with other research institutions (Institute of Botany CAS; Institute of Soil Biology, Biology Centre CAS; Institute of Microbiology CAS; Department of Ecosystem Biology and Department of Experimental Plant Biology, Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice; Department of Ecology and Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague; etc.), covers  wild spectrum of research activities that are focused on following main tasks:


  • Molecular diversity, ecology and biogeography of cyanobacteria and algae of the polar regions
  • Functional characteristics of the cyanobacteria and algae of the polar regions
  • Role of cyanobacteria and algae in individual biotopes and the relations among individual ecosystem components
  • Biotechnological exploitations of cyanobacteria and algae of the polar regions


  • Soil ecology and microbiology
  • Greenhouse gases production by polar soils in different stage of development
  • Soil development and the relations among the individual components of the soil ecosystem

The research tasks of the phycology group start by description of taxonomical diversity of cyanobacteria and algae and of selected environmental parameters in studied area in which particular communities live.  The cyanobacteria and algae are studied in all types of terrestrial biotopes, including shallow lotic and lentic wetlands, soil crusts, ornithogenic soils, wet tundra, wet walls, cryoseston of the soil fields, cryoconites on glacial surface, lichenized substrates, biotopes influenced by human activities or brackish coastal wetlands. Ecological observations are focused on assessment of important ecological factors and their stability in time in mentioned biotopes. They include both discrete or continual measurements of basic environmental factors (physical-chemical parameters of soils and waters, diurnal courses of temperature, irradiance, water transparency, pH, oxygen concentration, conductivity, etc.). Selected parameters, namely temperature and water availability, are recorded for long periods of time. In addition, the species composition of cyanobacteria and algae is evaluated and rate of the primary productivity is measured.

Based on this in situ description, interesting populations of cyanobacteria and algae are selected for detailed ecophysiological studies. For taxonomical determination of individual species, the polyphasic approach is applied in which the classic microscopic observations are combined with data obtained from DNA sequencing. Isolated strains of cyanobacteria and algae are kept in the working collection, later they are included in the Culture Collection of the Autotrophic Organisms (CCALA) of the Institute of Botany CAS in Třeboň. Ecophysiological characteristics of polar cyanobacteria and algae are investigated using field measurements as well as by laboratory experiments. Svalbard field experiments are focused on measurements of photosynthetic activity and nitrogen fixation (expressed as nitrogenase activity) of Nostoc sp. colonies (Cyanobacteria) in Open-Top-Chamber experiments (see below) and in other defined manipulation experiments, for example evaluation of desiccation effects, on investigation of dormant stage formation in cyanobacteria and algae, and on study of photochemical processes in different types of biotopes. Laboratory experiments are focused on determination of ecophysiological requirements of particular species and detailed studies of their response to various environmental factors.

Due to temperature increase in the Arctic, natural resources exploitation is being expanding and human settlements are being extending in the polar regions. In order to minimize the effects of human activities (e.g. water eutrophication) and improvement of the efficiency of the natural resources exploitation (e.g. fish production), new technologies have to be developer. Some of them will be based on utilization of local microorganisms. The phycology group already performed the first tests for the selection of biotechnologically interesting strains and tested the possibility of mass cultivation in low temperatures.

Soil microbiologists bring their own methods for soil research. The soil samples are collected for chemical and microbiological analyses in context with diversity of microclimatic parameters, time of deglaciation, elevation, substrate type, degree of disruption by wind and water erosion, degree of coverage by vegetation of higher plants and mosses, degree of anthropogenic influence, etc. Together with mentioned analyses, microbial diversity is evaluated and the greenhouse gases exchange in soils o different degree of development, from tundra with full vegetation cover under sea bird sanctuaries to newly developer soil just after deglaciation. Based on these analyses, the soil development is determined in relation to given ecological parameters. 

Both groups co-operate in research on the effects of global climate change on the polar ecosystems. Since 2009, experiments using open small greenhouses (Open Top Chambers, OTC) have been performed in selected localities (wet thufur tundra and soil crusts), in which the effects of mild warming and change of soil water content on cyanobacterial and algal communities, and on decomposition rate have been evaluated.

Team members: Josef Elster, Jana Kvíderová, Marie Šabacká

Soil microbiology

Our group focuses on study of carbon and nitrogen cycles in relation to the composition and functioning of microbial communities and their relationships with other organisms in ecosystems such as tundra, taiga, continental glaciers, lakes.

The main objective of our group is to:

  • improve estimates of organic carbon in cryosols (soils affected by permafrost) with a focus on the Eurasian Arctic.
  • understand the vulnerability of these carbon stocks in future climate
  • improve existing models to better predict the response of permafrost soils, glacies, lakes to future climate conditions
  • describe the functioning of microbial communities under extreme Arctic conditions

We are primarily interested in how natural forcing (permafrost thaw) is changing the functioning of these ecosystems, i.e. rates of carbon and nutrient transformation and loss from the ecosystem, species and functional diversity of the soil microbial community, and soil-vegetation relationships.

Our research focuses primarily on describing microorganisms in terms of both diversity and function. Microbial communities include all three domains of life (bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes), which implies that the study of such a complex system is poses a considerable challenge to scientists. In the last decade, new genetic and molecular biological techniques (PCR, sequencing, etc.) have been increasingly applied to study complex microbial communities. It is these that allow us to better describe the processes and the microorganisms responsible for them in complex terestrial and aquatic environments. Last but not least, they allow us to study the interactions between organisms. These new methods are the focus of our molecular biology laboratory.

Knowledge of the chemical and microbiological composition of organic matter and the processes by which carbon, nitrogen and nutrients are stabilized is essential to predict the extent and timescale at which SOC will be remobilized from thawing permafrost under climate change.

We have long-standing collaborations with institutes at the Biological Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, and with foreign universities in Helsinki, Hannover, Vienna and Uppsala. These collaborations open up the possibility for our students to travel abroad on a placement at a friendly university.

Contact person: Jiří Bárta

Parasitology and Infection Biology
  1. The study of life cycle of trematodes from the family Opecoelidae occurring in gastropods Buccinium spp.and family Gymnophalidae from bivalves Mya truncata and Hiatella arctica.
  2. Study of other helminths found in fish and selected invertebrate hosts.
  3. Examination of tissues and organs if selected vertebrate and invertebrate hosts with the aim of the histological studies of parasites from the groups Apicomplexa, Myxozoa, Microsporidia, Ciliata and the isolation of amphizoic amoebas.
  4. Mapping of biodiversity of littoral biocenoses
  5. Intestinal parasites of mammals and birds
    Examination of feces using classical coprological methods and molecular analyses. Special attention is paid to parasites of Polar Fox (Vulpes lagopus) and Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus), as well as to parasites of introduced mammals (vole Microtus levis and dog).
  6. Searching for arboviruses and influenza viruses
    Using molecular analyses, the mosquitoes Aedes nigripes (larvae and adult females) and ticks Ixodes uriae are examined for arboviruses. Oropharyngeal and cloacal swabs as well as droppings of selected species birds are screened for influenza viruses. Antibodies against bird influenza have been already recorded in serum samples of Black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla).

Team members: Oleg Ditrich, Eva Myšková



Ornithology group focuses mainly on:

  • evolutionary ecology, life histories, global comparative insights
  • climate change and human pressure impacts and adaptations
  • population dynamics, demography, latitudinal gradients
  • predation, predator-prey interactions, parasites
  • migration, behavioral ecology, breeding associations
  • sex roles, mating systems and parental investment
  • camouflage and plumage colouration
  • Important Bird Areas, conservation implications

using birds, with a particular focus on shorebirds and allies, as an excellent model group at numerous localities worldwide, from tropics up to the high Arctic, using well the established extensive network of 40+ teams within the ÉLVONAL Shorebird Science project (https://elvonalshorebirds.com/home/).

When asking important scientific questions, we are often effectively combining independent data at three different levels: i) data directly collected by our team – individual in-depth field studies using a detailed methodology and experimental design; ii) data collected according to unified protocols across an extensive network of 40+ collaborating teams worldwide; iii) data extracted from published and online sources, enabling broad comparative insights.

Our investigations have several important implications. First, we are identifying key climate change, human pressure, and life-history factors affecting breeding performance and survival rates as well as global population trends of wild animals with the use of recently developed demographic models adopting an explicit phylogenetic framework. Second, the exploration of spatial and temporal changes in life-history traits, population dynamics, and social behavior is enabling us to track historic patterns and recent impacts of climate change and human pressure on wild animals in a rapidly changing world. Third, we do care for the outreach and conservation implications of our research, our scientific outputs are being disseminated among conservationists, policymakers, and the wide public in various countries to promote and advocate new specific conservation applications mitigating the impact of recent environmental changes.

We look forward working with highly motivated researchers from all over the world. This may include scientists, conservationists, post-docs, students at various levels, interns, and volunteers. Get in touch with us.

Team members: Vojtěch Kubelka, Guillaume Dillenseger and Andreas Rimoldi

26Photo: Vojtěch Kubelka

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Branišovská 1645/31a, 370 05 České Budějovice Tel. 387 776 201 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Branišovská 1645/31a, 370 05 České Budějovice Tel. 387 776 201 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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